The time was a stark one for the U.S.−mid-December 1941, just after Pearl Harbor. Frosty-eyed Admiral Ernest Joseph King had been called back to Washington to run the U.S. fleet, was soon to be appointed (the first man in history) to the double-gaited job of Fleet Commander and Chief of Naval Operations. Growled Sailorman King to his colleagues at the Navy Department: "When they get into trouble, they always send for the sons of bitches."

Stern Resistance. Ernie King's reputation as a "sundowner" (seagoing for martinet) was legendary in the service. In the prewar...

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